With the exception of John Carpenter and Scottish singer-songwriter Donovan’s 1966 psych-rock hit “Season of the Witch,” most Halloween-themed music is not very good. Sadly, too often bands’ attempts to write a chart-topping single about bloodsuckers, ghouls and their ilk fall on the wrong side of campiness. We’re looking directly your way, “Monster Mash.“
Luckily, “Casting My Spell,” the latest song from New York synth-pop duo Fever High, successfully avoids this trap by combining upbeat piano, tambourine, handclaps and shared vocals and throwing together the mix in a burbling cauldron. The red and blue-hued, kaleidoscopic video follows the duo, singers and multi-instrumentalists Reni Lane and Anna Nordeen, as they engage in seasonally appropriate activities like conducting a candlelit seance, stalking a hallway in white gowns à la The Shining and shimmying in front of a fortune teller’s window. There’s also numerous shots of flaming roses, you know, for extra spooky effect.
Over email, Fever High tells Playboy that the Andy DeLuca-directed clip was shot at various locations around New York City and based on mood boards including “psychic readers’ neon lights around the city, witchy things and ABBA.” “What’s cool about Andy is that he himself is a great musician, so he has a different approach that works really well with our band,” says Reni. “For one, he’s more rhythmically focused with editing and as far as shooting goes, he focuses on simply capturing a vibe and having fun.”
Like their well-received 2016 EP All Work, the duo’s full-length debut album FHNY was produced by Adam Schlesinger, who’s best known for playing in power-pop group Fountains of Wayne and Ivy. “He’s very meticulous so I learn a lot in the process,” explains Nordeen. “He’s also incredibly witty so its always a funny time.” For their highly energetic live shows, including a handful of dates opening for popular 1980s American synth-pop band Book of Love (who they count as an influence alongside Bananarama, Blondie, David Bowie and Depeche Mode), they’ve expanded to a four-piece with Schlesinger and drummer Brad Wentworth.
Their record’s 11 songs finds them venturing into moodier territory, experimenting with airy keyboards and stacked harmonies while not abandoning the Tootsie Pop-sweet hooks and tongue-in-cheek lyrics that fans have come to expect from the pair. “There’s definitely a newfound grit and gutsy lyrical attitude on these new tunes,” says Lane. “Spy” is a propulsive electroclash anthem sung from the perspective of an obsessive lover while “Good Advice” features an offbeat monologue by none other than Hollywood veteran (and noted jazz enthusiast) Jeff Goldblum, who agreed to do it after being introduced by a mutual friend, Daredevil star Vincent D’Onofrio.
As for the duo’s favourite Halloween flicks? “The Worst Witch, the 1980s movie about a witches’ academy starring Fairuza Balk. Tim Curry plays the Grand Wizard in it and sings an excellent Halloween song called ‘Anything Can Happen On Halloween’,” says Nordeen. “I can recite the entire dialogue along with the movie. Friends don’t find it annoying at alI. I watch it every Halloween.”
“I let Anna steer me in this category because she has an uncanny encyclopedic knowledge of everything Halloween,” adds Lane. “I will say though that it may not be a horror movie, but Watership Down never fails to terrify me.”
Fever High’s self-released debut album FHNY drops November 10. Watch the music video for "Casting My Spell” here.